Natalie Cole, 65

bn-cz481_0528co_p_20140528195811

Natalie, Nat and Carole Cole

SOME POIGNANT New Years Day news.  Like many, I woke to hear of the passing of Natalie Cole.

For me it was a layered loss. I’d done some work for Carole Cole for a box set of her father’s work that came out about a decade ago. I’d felt lucky that I had been trusted write liner notes that would look at not just  her father’s musical arc but the family’s history in Los Angeles.  Like so many I grew up with stacks of Nat Cole records leaning against the hi-fi. On top of that, simply put, the Coles were L.A. royalty.

It fell to Carole in later years to keep watch over the estate and the music rights and through it was in consult with Natalie. Together they protected that story, the legacy. Every anecdote, every date, every memory was checked and double-checked. Legacy was as important to them as was his burnished voice.

Looking at the photo above, it’s impossible to wrap my brain around the fact that they are all gone. What’s hit me more than anything is that the season started officially — as always for me – on Christmas Eve when I first heard Nat Cole’s “The Christmas Song.” And the season ended upon hearing the news of Natalie’s New Years Eve passing.

Some sad  magic symmetry.

 

Dreamscapes and Domains – New Orleans Notes, Ten Years Gone

ABOUT A week and a half ago, I was pushing memories around in my head. They’d come unbidden, stray phrases and images. I didn’t think I had a home for them just yet.katrina

I hadn’t planned to write anything formal about Katrina and the flood, but it was on my mind — taking up more than backspace. Last week all that circular thinking started surfacing as full sentences. And finally, in a block of focused days I had a piece. It ran yesterday in the Los Angeles Times, you can find it here.

One of the things about my post-Katrina New Orleans and the absence of my blood-ties is that it’s left me thinking about the people who used to live around the folks I once visited as part of that summer ritual. I think about this as I wander New Orleans trying to locate sites that no longer exist on any map. I remember generations of families who had remained on one block passing on not just an address but a hibiscus and iris garden, a porch with a ceiling painted blue like a spring sky. Even an attic ghost. On this side of the family line, I am the last person to hold those memories, to know what it was before: The stories and the voices — the intricately built sentences — I will carry in my head I know, but these are the features will always define New Orleans for me.

Just last week, I was speaking to my friend Mark Broyard, an artist who lives here in L.A. and has deep New Orleans roots.katrina series no. three As I note in the piece, after Katrina, he went back to help but also to bear witness. Photograph and collect debris that he would ultimately make into art. I remember the first time I saw the piece above, I didn’t have words. It hit someplace so deep, I cried.

(Broyard has other work in a group show, “Hard Edged” now up at the California African American Museum.)

With all of the trumpeting of “recovery” and “resilience,” my hope is that we will all remember — remember that there is so much more to do, to finish, to fix. To make whole. I’m realizing more and more that I’d like to find a place in that.

And as a guide, to keep in mind, that that new spot you’ve landed in — your new domain — that was once someone else’s garden, porch, ghost; it was once someone else’s dream.

Katrina Series Image courtesy Mark Broyard

Where is the love, Los Angeles?

aloudOH, THERE’S been a big reason why things have been a little quiet around here.

Lots of deadlines and projects and talks but here’s the biggest endeavor that’s been occupying a lot of my brain space and is going to be taking off in about a week and a half.

I’ve been working on a collaboration for ALOUD with the poet Mariesela Norte about Los Angeles — life along the margins of the big frame. Also in the big mix is DJ Mark “frosty” McNeil of dublab who will be weaving a live mix to accompany our words and images.

This will be our kick off for the summer.

We’re completely sold out but you can try to fly stand-by.

Info here.

oh, and PS: I should be getting back to regular posting very soon.

Stay tuned.

Out of the wings …

Guitarist Tommy Tedesco

Guitarist Tommy Tedesco

LIKE MANY, I had been long waiting for a look at filmmaker Denny Tedesco’s documentary about the L.A.’s famed group of session musicians, The Wrecking Crew.

Earlier this week, I got a chance to speak with Tedesco, son of session guitarist Tommy Tedesco, about his 19 years behind-the-scene efforts to finish the film and secure the music clearances. I wish I had had unlimited space because Tedesco can spin and loft an anecdote like his father. And there were many.

Like any company town, L.A. had it’s own factories. Evidence of work was everywhere. But instead of smoke stacks churning out soot, Los Angeles’s airwaves were full of the fruit of their labor — music.

“They were in a factory town and they were pumping out music and it was fast,” Tedesco says, “But some factories make Rolls Royces while others make Pintos.”

While the decades-long gig kept him close to home, Denny’s father lived a life on the road — L.A. surface streets, freeways and canyon passes. Paging through his father’s old work books were enlightening. Though Denny says he felt his father was around much of the time, it was, he now realizes, an impression of presence, looking back at all the dates, pages and pages of 10, 13, 15 hour days. “My Dad kept his guitars in the car. Always. We had four phone lines at home. And he had an answering service. This was 1968! There was no way someone was going to get a busy signal. The first thing he’d ask when he hit the door: ‘Any calls?'”

It was all about staying a float. 

My piece goes up tomorrow — I will post it then — but until then here’s the film’s trailer:

Touchstones and Keepsakes: Chinatown’s New Orleans in L.A.

IMG_6874.2015-02-04_022117

A FEW months back, I’d heard word about a spot opening up in Chinatown that was going to bring a little bit of New Orleans to L.A. It got my hopes up, but I also knew to be sure to be a bit measured with my expectations. We’ve been disappointed before. Frankly New Orleans is difficult to get right — the accent as well as the food.

Slipping into Little Jewel back in August, I saw from the start that this was going to be different. Strikingly so. Since then,
I’ve been following the evolution of this market/deli and rendezvous for the last six months.

For many transplanted New Orleanians it’s already become a freeway-close home away from home.

You can click here to find my piece about Chinatown’s Little Jewel of New Orleans.

Executive Chef Marcus Christiana-Beniger greets customers at The Little Jewel of New Orleans -- photo by Lynell George

Executive Chef Marcus Christiana-Beniger greets customers at The Little Jewel of New Orleans — photo by Lynell George

David Carr, 58

“Shakespeare describes memory as the warden of the brain, but it is also its courtesan. We all remember the parts of the past that allow us to meet the future. The prototypes of the lie — white, grievous, practical–make themselves known when memory is called to answer. Memory usually answers back with bullshit. Everyone likes a good story, especially the one who is telling it, and the historical facts are generally sullied in the process. All men mean well, and clearly most people who set out to tell the truth do not lie on purpose. How is it, then, that every warm bar stool contains a hero, a star of his own epic, who is the sum of his amazing stories?”

— David Carr
from “The Night of the Gun”

Woke up and it was still true…Heartbreaking.
NYT obit here.